Category Archives: celebrity

Beauty in the Movies: 9 to 5

The transition from freelancing at home to commuting and working full-time has been a major contributing factor to my recent lack of blog posts. So it’s only appropriate that the return of ‘Beauty in the Movies’ features the charmingly adorable 1980s work place comedy 9 to 5.


9 to 5 is a female buddy comedy in which three female co-workers accidentally kidnap their sexist, terrible boss and then, with him safely under house arrest, work together to make the office a much better place for everyone.


There are an abundance of great scenes between the leading ladies (Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda) but one of the best moments comes after the three women have each had a hellish day at the office and decide to get high on a joint given to Lily Tomlin’s character by her son.


“Is that one of those marijuana cigarettes?”


While stoned, they each indulge in a workplace fantasy and live out a take-down of their evil superior. Lily Tomlin’s fantasy of herself as a Disney-like princess is by far the best, cartoon animals and all. Adorable.


One of the sillier parts of the movie is the S+M like contraption the women rig up to keep their boss (Dabney Coleman) from escaping while they make changes back at the office.

Dabney Coleman 9 to 5

This film deals with some workplace issues that are still very relevant more than 30 years later. Workplace sexism is the most obvious obstacle the women face, but girl-on-girl crimes and workplace dissatisfaction lie beneath the sometimes slapstick plot of the film. Dolly Parton’s character, Doralee, is sexually harassed by her boss on a daily basis, but it is equally upsetting when the other women in the office assume she’s sleeping with him and then ostracize her for it.


(Doesn’t sad Dolly just break your little heart?)

It seems the other women’s assumptions are due in part to Dolly’s clothing, makeup, and overall Parton-ish style (epic bosom included). Sadly, women judging other women based on their appearance and forming false opinions about their sex-lives, intellect, morality, etc., is something I’ve seen happen in every office I’ve ever worked in. It’s pretty sad to think those two ladies almost missed out on being friends with Doralee because of their own misconceptions.


There are other aspects of office life that haven’t changed since 1980, example #1:

Copiers are devil-monsters sent from Hades to make your life miserable. I’m pretty sure the one at my office has an angry spirit living inside, it chews paper instead of printing it, always has a jam in a mystery tray, and has also burned me twice. I’m right there with Jane Fonda in this scene.


As Dolly says, working 9 to 5 can sure drive you crazy if you let it, but there is really nothing better than some sassy, smart, supportive friends to help make your office a fun place to be.


…and happy hour never hurts either — cheers!


Filed under Beauty in the movies, celebrity, fashion, shopping

I’m Coming Back…

…at least I’m going to try to! I know a year and a half is a long break, but I’ve missed posting here. I’m going to scale things back a bit and try to keep things simple this time.

So, what re-inspired me to start posting again? It was none other than one of my first ever beauty inspirations, an actress I have loved since I first set eyes on her in a glorious peasant blouse/vest/jeans/loafers outfit combo in the movie that most informed my childhood; Labyrinth.


It was her answer to the following question in the most recent issue of Glamour:

GLAMOUR: You have a baby daughter. What will you teach her about beauty?

JC: She can teach me a thing or two. But mostly: confidence. I was just working in Iceland and I saw this woman in a crazy scarf with colored tassels and her hair way up in a side ponytail…If she got photographed, Cindi [Leive, Glamour's editor-in-chief] might have her on the Don’ts page! But it was her thing. It was full of color, and she was full of life. If something is right for you, it becomes a Do.


Well said Ms. Connelly, very well said. Glamour is one of the more acceptance-minded magazines out there (which isn’t saying much), but I’ve always found their “Do’s and Don’ts” feature to be kind of gross and mean, definitely the opposite of accepting. I’m a firm believer that there are no RULES in beauty, fashion, art, or anything else that is about expressing yourself. Major Kudos to Jennifer Connelly for pointing that out to them in their own magazine — and reminding me that it’s a subject I don’t want to stop talking about.


Filed under acceptance, celebrity

Guest Post: Maria’s 5 Fashionable Female Leads in Film

In place of ‘Beauty in the Movies’ this week I present to you a guest post in which the lovely and talented Maria Rainier shares her ‘top five favorite fashionable films’—now that’s a mouthful! Enjoy, and many thanks to Maria.


Disclaimer: I am no expert on fashion.  In fact, one of the last things I notice in a movie—after cinematography, script, acting, editing, what other movies the actors and actresses were in—is what said actors and actresses are wearing.  If their acting is impressive and they have nice smiles, that’s usually as deep as I’ll go.

See, that’s what makes the following list special: I don’t pay much attention to fashion, but the following actresses had something going on strong enough to make me remember to look at my own closet after the movie was done.

Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies

Marion plays Billie Frechette, who, until meeting the dangerous and dashing John Dillinger, hasn’t had much opportunity to wear anything nice.  She pulls off Depression Era glam like few actresses could.

I find myself envying her circa 1930s bob and fur-lined coats because a) I could never get my hair to look like that and b) I’m an animal lover and even prefer not to wear faux fur.  So much for that.

Audrey Tautou in Amélie

A girl as sweet, childlike, and silly as Amélie could only wear light, delicate, feminine fabrics.  She’s the girl who can effortlessly pull off polka-dots or stripes, lots of red and green, and a (circa 5th grade) my-mom-cut-my-hair trim without looking like, well, a 5th grader.

Everything she wears is endearing and simple—old-fashioned camisoles, mandarin collars, a-line skirts, and a simple retro flair.

Much of it says that Amélie doesn’t really care how she looks as long as it’s comfortable and fits—she’s too busy trying to make the world a nicer place, anyway.

Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith

If I have a girl-crush on anyone, it’s Angie, if nothing for the fact that she can pull off a leather S&M outfit, a classy black dress, and a suit jacket in the same movie.  Anyone would agree that although Angelina’s perfect bone structure and pouty lips are her claim to fame, it’s her confidence that really screams, “I’ll wear what I want.”

I mean, what does she have to be insecure about (besides her failing marriage, of course)?  She’s a successful spy, she works in a skyscraper with high-tech computers and pressed suits, and she can escape a sticky situation with a zipline and a handgun.

Okay, most of us don’t have these things or the kind of confidence that goes with them.  Still, if all of us were half as comfortable in our own skins as Angelina appears to be, at least in this film as Mrs. Smith, the world would be a much sexier place.

Mila Kunis in Book of Eli

No, I don’t think we should all stop washing our clothes and wear overalls everywhere.

If anyone convinced me to buy a pair of Oakleys, though, it was Mila Kunis (and everyone else in Book of Eli).

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

If you ever wondered where the idea of the “little black dress” came from, you’re looking at her now.

Lovely Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly embodies timeless glam in this Hollywood classic, complete with huge pearls, thick sunglasses, and simple makeup choices.



Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student getting an online associates degree remotely from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.



Filed under celebrity

A Moment For Elizabeth Taylor

We suffered a sad loss yesterday with the death of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, but I have no doubt the enormous life she lived will be remembered for generations to come. Not just for the films she made and the men she married, but for her activism and her vivacious spirit which failed to diminish through sickness and old age. More than anyone I can think of, Liz Taylor was a born star. With striking features including violet eyes and a mutation that gave her an extra set of eyelashes, she could have easily ended up just another pretty face, but instead she became a legend.

My favorite Liz Taylor story is this; Princess Margaret spotted the 39-carat Krupp diamond (given to her by husband Richard Burton) on Elizabeth Taylor’s finger and exclaimed, “That’s the most vulgar thing I’ve ever seen!”. Taylor offered to let her try the “vulgar” jewel on, and watched as the Princess admired the enormous diamond. The quick-witted Taylor then famously quipped: “See? It’s not so vulgar now, is it?”.

It’s a perfect example of what was so lovable about Elizabeth Taylor. She was elegant, graceful and praised for her acting abilities, but she didn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t. She didn’t care if she was considered vulgar, in fact she enjoyed it. So many stars today are trying so hard to appear “classy” by painting themselves as humble and relate-able, but they aren’t, we all know they’re making millions and living a lavish life. Elizabeth Taylor had a forthrightness that couldn’t help but be charming. She was passionate, talented, tough, and always appeared to have a magnificent sense of humor. This is a woman who pulled a tooth from actor, and close friend, Montgomery Clift’s throat as he choked after a car accident. She survived alcoholism, spousal abuse, tabloid insults, 8 marriages, a husband’s sudden death, 5 broken backs, 2 hip replacements, a brain tumor, skin cancer, and an emergency tracheotomy. She was a matriarch, a survivor, a force to be reckoned with, and an inspiration for all women to be who they are and live their lives without apology. Here’s to you Ms. Taylor.


Filed under celebrity

Oscar Beauties

I, like many, watch the Oscars for the clothes. If everyone was wearing jeans and sneakers it just wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s the gowns, the hair, and the insanely expensive jewelry that make it worth watching. Those displays of glamour that most of us will never get to touch in our lifetimes so we live them vicariously through celebrities instead.

The whole idea of the Oscars is way overblown, it’s great that celebrities have awards ceremonies just like many other professions do, but the seriousness with which the show is presented makes the event seem a touch too self-congratulatory. For a show that is celebrating entertainment it never comes off as light and fun, it’s aggrandized and phony, plus there’s something incredibly dated about it. Obviously the Academy knows this and therefore chose “young and hip” actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host this year. Unfortunately it didn’t really work so well.

The result was Hathaway and Franco appearing uncomfortable with the grandness of the show—Anne Hathaway literally seemed like she was playing dress up and trying a bit too hard (though who could blame her?), and Franco’s way of dealing with the pressure was to act totally bored. The set, the overly dramatic music, and the cheesy writing all seem to stay the same year after year. You would think this time around with the push to appeal to younger viewers they would have changed things up aside from just the hosts. It’s weird because if the Oscars are really just an award show to celebrate achievements in the field of cinema, why do they need to appeal to anyone?

Anyway, like I said, I tune in for the clothes. The show itself drags on forever and always seems disappointing because nothing all that interesting happens. As awards shows go, it’s the biggest, but it’s also the most stuck-up which means all the stars are nervous and on their best behavior, which makes things boring. Pretty dresses however, are always fun to look at. This year my favorite by far was Mila Kunis in Elie Saab, I’m a sucker for purple. I like it when people take risks so I might be in the minority of people who loved Cate Balnchett’s Givenchy gown as well. Here are some other things I liked:

Michelle Williams and her simple but pretty hair, makeup, and earrings. She always gets it right, but also manages to keep things interesting at the same time.

Hailee Steinfeld’s youthful makeup, and her eyebrows which were thankfully left alone rather than plucked into oblivion leaving her looking as beautiful and happy as any 14-year-old at the Oscars should be.

I think it’s so funny when people on E! or other red carpet fashion round-ups make fun of Helena Bonham Carter because obviously she doesn’t give two shits what any of them think and she just wears what she wants. How can you not love that? I love her hair, her fan, her husband, and the way she sticks to her personal style no matter what.

I didn’t love Nicole Kidman’s dress, but I did love her big diamond necklace from Fred Leighton.
Also wasn’t a fan of Reese Witherspoon’s 90s prom looking black-and-white dress, but I did quite like her big sixties hair.
Anne Hathaway showed once again that she is at heart a (sometimes awkward) musical theater geek, but her Lanvin tuxedo was cute, and I especially like her custom Swarovski crystal covered heels.
Let’s hear it, who wore your favorite gowns, hair, or accessories?


Filed under celebrity, fashion

Broken Ballerinas

When I was 5-years-old I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I was obsessed by pink slippers and black leotards and most especially tutus. I changed into my pink sequined tutu when I got home from preschool, and I idolized my babysitter who studied ballet at LaGuardia High School and wore high ponytails and motorcycle boots. She gave me a pair of her toe shoes which I carried around in my backpack for most of first grade, maybe to impress my friends, but also just because I loved them. There is something so beautiful, so elegant, so feminine about ballet. It may be the most graceful art, but it is also the most disciplined. Which is why after age 7 I lost my patience for it and took to drawing on my walls instead—the visual arts are far more freeing.

I saw Black Swan a few weeks ago and then last week I saw The Red Shoes for the first time. Both films are set in the excruciatingly perfect world of ballet, and both are beautiful and devastating as they linger in your thoughts for days. There is no room for error in ballet, the movements must be perfect. If you can’t get your body to perform with the required grace, you either work harder, or give up. Part of the fascination with ballet (aside from the beautiful costumes and sets), is the perfection—it’s exhausting to watch at times, but when performed with ease, it’s completely mesmerizing.

Both the protagonist in The Red Shoes, Vickie Paige, and in Black Swan, Nina Sayers, are forced to make enormous sacrifices for their art—love, family, health, even sanity. The two films look at the world of ballet from the back, and both show us the physical and mental torment that come with the quest for perfection. Obviously not all ballerinas have nervous breakdowns, but it does seem that, more than other art forms, ballet projects the idea of beauty through pain. Maybe that feeds our fascination, or maybe it’s just the pretty costumes and the breathtaking elegance. Either way, both these films give deeply effective portrayals of the complexity of the ballet world and the dancers within them. There is the expected theatrical drama of who will get the lead and who will succeed, but it’s the vice-like pressure, the fear of failure, and the need to be the “ideal” that acts as the driving force. The pressure isn’t just from overbearing directors, or mothers, but all the more disturbingly, from within the individual.

Whether you’re a fan of ballet or you think Swan Lake is danced by hippos and ostriches, you will find yourself caught up in these films. While Black Swan takes the viewer on a spiraling trip into the psyche (the actual dancing not being very important), The Red Shoes delivers a heartbreaking account of impossible choice (with incredible dancing), both films make clear that an artist cannot achieve perfection without a certain degree of sacrifice. In the end, it is left to us to decide whether we believe the sacrifice was worth it.

I can’t take screen-shots of Black Swan because it’s not out on DVD yet, but The Red Shoes is simply gorgeous, here are some stills to convince you to see it.

Look, 40s era costumes with ballet slippers—how can you not love that?

Is this not gorgeous?

At a certain point it’s so beautiful, it doesn’t even look real anymore.

This post is pretty much just an excuse for me to do two things, 1. tell you to watch both of these amazing movies, and 2. make a pretty ballet collage on Polyvore. I hope I’ve gotten through to you on the first point, and see below for the second—I’ve never outgrown my 5-year-old self’s love of ballet inspired pieces, and I still love tutus—don’t you?

Odette / Odille by justinez featuring a ballet skirt

Lover Muse lace dress
$935 -
Lace dresses »

Black Feather Dress**
110 GBP -
Black cocktail dresses »

Organic Bamboo Drape Dress
149 GBP -
Wedge dress »

Relevé Dress
$78 -
Print dresses »

Ladies Shrug
10 GBP -
Shrug cardigan »

Tanya Tie Front Shrug
42 GBP -
Bolero cardigans »

White feather shrug
49 GBP -
White tops »

Lanvin skirts BLACK
1,365 GBP -
Black skirts »

vita viscose bodysuit
$48 -
French Connection »

Kia Luxury Leggings by Theory
161 GBP -
Leggings »

Repetto Bolchoi Metal
$350 -
Flat pumps »

Ladies Ribbon Bow Belt
8 GBP -
Ribbon belts »

Classic crystal tiara
35 GBP -
Crystal hair accessories »

NARS Night Collection Eyeshadow
$23 -


Filed under celebrity

Pee-wee on Broadway

Last Wednesday I saw Pee-wee Herman on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim theater, and it was amazing. I personally think Pee-wee is one of the best comic characters ever created, but seeing the show last week brought me right back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood, when my sister and I would plop in front of the TV drinking our carnation instant breakfast trying not to wake our parents while we giggled at Pee-wee and his friend’s weekly hi-jinks.

There are some new characters in the show who take a bit of getting used to, but by the end you love them all and you don’t want it to end (unless you are the theater reviewer for the NY Times). The original Miss Yvonne and Jambi were there, and Chairry was adorable as usual. Pee-wee of course delivered all of his classic jokes from the movie and TV show, along with lots of innuendo loaded new ones. The most unbelievable part of the whole show was that Paul Reubens at 58 is as spry and magnetic as ever! There must be a talking fountain of youth somewhere in puppetland.

I hate to get into Paul Reubens’ past scandals but I feel I have to mention them especially since there are some people who still go “ick” if you mention Pee-wee Herman. Reubens was infamously arrested for indecent exposure (and alleged masturbation) at a Florida porno theater in 1991. The arrest was so over-hyped by the media at the time, that I didn’t realize until I was an adult what had actually happened. I’d assumed it had been molestation or rape or some other truly monstrous behavior that had caused our beloved Pee-wee to vanish. Obviously Reubens’ actions weren’t very prudent (especially as a kid’s TV host) but they hardly matched the disgust and outrage that was hurled at him afterward.

Reubens’ regret for his behavior, which caused his absence from the industry (he made some sporadic appearances) for nearly twenty years, cannot be denied. Loads of celebrities who’ve done truly horrible, reckless, and violent things have only shown as much remorse as deemed necessary by their publicists. Reubens always took his job as a role-model incredibly seriously, and his disappearance from acting was most likely caused by his own disappointment in himself and the image that was stamped on him. As a child who grew up loving Pee-Wee I found the treatment of the “scandal” by the media, the condemnation, the obsessive coverage, by far the most upsetting part of the whole incident—I guess they weren’t really concerned about what the children thought though.

Scandals aside, Pee-wee Herman is an American pop culture icon who has endured despite being out of the spotlight, and the butt of jokes, for twenty years which is pretty darn impressive. When you go to the Pee-wee Herman show and the curtains draw back, your childhood sits happily before you again. Whether you’re screaming for the word-of-the-day or shouting Jambi’s magic incantation, it’s hard not feel like you’re back on your couch on Saturday morning. Pee-wee is so much more than just nostalgia, he is inventive and new even after all these years. While less manic than he used to be, Reubens still captures the snotty, but kind-hearted charm of his beloved character.

It’s kind of funny that Pee-wee’s playhouse was inspired by the kids shows of the 1950s like Captain Kangaroo, and now Paul Reubens fits that character better than he did in his younger years. Pee-wee is somehow cuter, funnier, and maybe even more endearing with a bit of paunch and some wrinkles, don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

The loathing launched on Reubens in 1991 was due mostly to his role as a kid’s show character, which might explain why the past two decades haven’t had any interesting hosts in the tradition of Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo—cartoons and puppets are far less likely to incur scandal. It’s a shame because Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was a smart, funny, creative show that focused on art, morals, and diversity without talking down to kids, and it could be enjoyed by parents too, unlike a lot of other children’s programming out there.

The tickets to the show on Broadway are definitely pricey, but if you’re a big fan looking for a night of nostalgia, it’s worth it. No worries though, this isn’t the last of Pee-wee, Judd Apatow and Paul Reubens are working on a new Pee-wee movie for release in 2011, maybe we should all repeat Jambi’s magic words in a collective attempt to make sure this movie actually happens, it can’t hurt right?

The Pee-wee Herman show is running now through January 2nd, get more information and tickets here. A big “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho” to all you Pee-wee fans out there, and may he continue to entertain and delight a whole new generation!


Filed under celebrity

Why Stevie Nicks Makes Me Excited For Fall

For the past few months life has revolved around avoiding the heat, whether it’s air conditioning, light clothing, or waiting until sunset to go outside, I’m not a creature of the heat, I melt. So I’ve gotten used to the constant drinking of cold fluids and taking cold showers, but yesterday afternoon, as I was sitting at my desk, the strangest thing happened. I felt a cold chill. No, the AC wasn’t on, there wasn’t a ghost lurking nearby (I hope), and I was actually wearing substantial clothing, but the windows were opened. It had been muggy all morning, and then just like that a cool breeze swept in, and the first shudder of Fall came through my window.

I was given that familiar reminder that soon I’ll be in boots, and the leaves will litter the ground, and the smell of burning wood will be in the air. All it takes is that first gust of wind from who-knows-where, and you realize that summer is really about to end, it happens every August. I can remember other August days throughout the years when I felt it—going back-to-school shopping, or packing up to go to college, there’s a shift, and for some reason that change from summer to Fall always holds a spark. Maybe it’s because you suddenly remember all those things you’d plan to do the last three months. The vacations, the projects, the promises. Summer is all relaxation and celebration, it’s care-free, it’s nostalgic, they write songs about how fun it is, and they write songs about how sad it is to see it go.

When summer begins to turn her head and shine on someone else, it’s a total bummer. Even a pain in the ass like me who hates to be hot and spends half the time complaining, misses the summer when she’s gone. I miss the bright colors, and the excitement, the BBQs and the beach, I miss how everyone is outside and celebrating everyday just because the sun is out and it’s warm. I know I’m totally depressing you right now, so let me get to my point. Fall is coming! Alright, some of you might not find that exciting, but it is, because it’s my favorite season. I think I’ll devote a whole other post to that, so let me just say—cute jackets, leather boots, cozy sweaters, wearing your hair down, no-frizz, no-sweat, no-chafe, dark nail polish, smokey eye-makeup and Halloween. Still not excited? Well then think of Stevie Nicks.

Does Stevie Nicks have have any relation to Autumn aside from in my own head? No. But for some reason every fall when I get upset about the summer ending and I try to get excited for Fall, I think about Stevie in all her witch-y, smokey-eyed, dark lipped, booted, mystical, gypsy-Victorian beautifulness. Maybe it’s a Halloween thing, or I’m just weird (pretty sure about that one), but her style seems to come up in Fall fashion spreads pretty often, so I don’t think I’m alone on this one. The woman can pull off cloaks and feathers and top hats like nobody’s business. On top of all that, she’s just awesome, so why wouldn’t you want to dress like her? Also, if you don’t already know about it, there is this thing called “Night of a Thousand Stevies”, its been happening in New York for the past 20 years. It’s a big fan event (Stevie isn’t involved) with performances and interpretations and everyone dresses like her—there are tambourines, and shawls, and drag queens. I found this on a website which provided info for this year’s event (it took place in May):

“Suggested Dress: Moon Goddess, Enchanted Eveningwear, Black Widow Spider Effects, Beribboned and Bedecked Tambourines, Wiccan Glamour, Wrapped in Velvet, Important Platform Boots, White Winged Dove After Midnight, Moonstones and Moon Motifs, Lindsey Or John McVie Pagan Menswear, Black Robes Trailing, Silver Threaded Shawls, Cloaks and Cokespoons or Your Personal Best Stevie Nicks Realness, All Eras.”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I have to attend this at some point, I can’t believe I haven’t yet. You might think it’s weird and crazy, but it’s no weirder than a lot of other things people do, and I bet it’s fun. You know what else is fun, smokey purple eye makeup. It’s a little witchy, definitely autumnal, and a big trend for Fall. Add on a little berry gloss and you’ll be evoking the spirit of Ms. Nicks.

Anyway, let’s embrace the fact that Autumn is almost here, and that soon we’ll be wearing coats and eating soup, that we can wear dark nail polish and play in the leaves, and dress with Wiccan glamour if we so choose. I mean, that’s something right? Here’s a collage inspired by Stevie to get you started!

stevie nicks by justinez featuring ballet skirt

Jil Sander Cashmere polo neck
305 GBP -
Empire waist tops »

Terra Shirt
$165 -
Calypso tops »

Lace Brocade Chiffon Top
$28 -
3/4 tops »

Military Cape
$450 -
Cape coat »

El Havanico Black Lace Fan – Fortnum & Mason
110 GBP -
Clothing »

Uneven Hem Chiffon Skirt
$100 -
Chiffon skirt »

Vila Chiffon Skirt
48 GBP -
Ballet skirt »

Rutzou Crochet Trim Scarf
187 EUR -
Rutzou scarves »

Deluxe John Bull Top Hat (Avail Apr 8)
$60 -
Top hat »

Rose Jaquard Wrap
10 GBP -
Wrap scarves »


- Livres Ecriture -

double ribbon


Filed under celebrity

The Twilight Saga: Hate It, Love It, Deal With It

Let me start by saying that I love vampires. I started reading Anne Rice novels at age eleven (even though I didn’t understand half of them, especially the dirty parts) and I might be the biggest Buffy fan you’ll ever meet. I’ve always loved stories about vampires, fantasy, and supernatural stuff, so I had to read Twilight. I tore through those books in about a week, and I enjoyed them, they’re great escapist fantasy, and the real pull (as with a lot of good fiction) is finding out what happens next. They’re predictable, but if you’re like me, sometimes you can’t help but want to see if you’re right about your predictions.

On Friday my fiance and I were supposed to go see Inception, but he surprised me and bought tickets for Twilight Eclipse instead. I’ve made him sit through the last two movies with me, and I really wasn’t going to ask him to see the third because upon re-watching, the second film New Moon is incredibly slow-moving and at times painful in its awkwardness. Eclipse is better, and it has prompted me to write a Twilight post, because it just had to happen. I’m not going to say I think Twilight is brilliant, but I’m also not going to say it’s total crap, because I really don’t believe either of those things are true. It is however, no matter what you think of it, an undeniable phenomenon, and although I know it has been talked about, and talked about, I’m going to talk about it some more. There are spoilers below, but only if you haven’t seen the first two films, or if you care to see the films at all.

The Twilight Saga is a series of four books written by Stephenie Meyer, the novels are world-wide bestsellers with over 100 million copies sold. If you have managed to avoid the news stories, the tabloid coverage of the film’s stars, or the television in general, let me give you a brief summary of Twilight giving as little away as possible.

A boring, typical, teenage girl, Bella Swan, moves to Forks Washington (the rainiest town in America) to live with her father, Charlie, who is the sheriff.

Bella likes headbands and Romeo and Juliet, and I’m not sure what else because what she really likes, more than anything is Edward Cullen, a boy she meets on her first day at Forks High School. Edward is a vampire, he is beautiful, and brooding, and he can read people’s thoughts, everyone’s—except Bella’s. Oh, and he sparkles in the sunlight, making him not so much a scary vampire.

After lots of intense staring, some lip-biting, and heavy breathing, they fall deeply in love and he introduces her to his vampire family. They like to dress in color coordinating outfits, specifically in shades of blue and gray.

The Cullens love Bella, they don’t eat her (or anyone else) because they subsist on large animals, which makes them friendly vampires. There are vampires who kill humans though, the leaders of these vampires are called the Volturi, they also like to dress in matching outfits.

While Bella is dealing with loving a vampire, she finds out her best friend Jacob Black is a werewolf, as are some of his peers in the Quileute tribe of which he is a member. Jacob also loves Bella and can’t wear shirts because they make him itchy.

There is a love triangle, more intense staring, and loads of teenage yearning while Bella gets herself into trouble over and over, constantly needing to be rescued. Werewolves hate vampires, and Bella is caught between, and that’s pretty much what you need to know.

So, now that we’ve covered that, let me get down to it. Bella is often called an anti-feminist character, she shows little if no strength, she is constantly being saved by, or in need of saving by, a handsome dominating male. The only real thing we know about Bella is how much she loves Edward. Of all the characters in Twilight she is given the least dimension. Everything she does is motivated by her love for Edward, she is willing to give up anything for him, her body, her life, and her soul. In the process she is knocked around and fought over like, for lack of a better word, an object. It’s obvious why she isn’t a great role model for young girls. The story isn’t really about Bella anyway, it’s about the fantasy of being “special”.

I truly believe that Twilight is a teenage girl’s fantasy. The daydreams I had as a teenager, and I think were shared by many, of meeting someone who plucked you out of the masses, who was interesting themselves, and declared you different and interesting too. Really the whole idea of Bella is that she is somehow special, despite being completely ordinary and otherwise uninteresting. There is no other evidence or reason for Bella’s specialness aside from Edward’s interest in her.

We know that Edward plays piano, we know that Jacob is an amateur mechanic, but Bella doesn’t seem to have a hobby. She cooks for her dad and she does her homework. On the HBO series True Blood, which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, Sookie finds herself in a very similar situation to Bella—but she fights, she’s tough, and she learns how to take care of herself, in other words, she has a personality. She is driven by far more than her love of her suitors, and the love triangle she is stuck in is partially because she gets pissed that both men treat her like an object, so she’s conflicted about both of them. The character of Bella is like a void, she is a blank slate that any girl can project herself onto, and I think that is part of what has made Twilight the phenomenon it has become.

I don’t think it’s that Sookie is braver than Bella, or that she is saved any less than Bella, but she is fully flesh to us. It’s that Sookie talks about her life, all the little details of it, in a very personal and realistic way. Of course she is supposed to be about seven years older, but there are plenty of teenage characters who manage to feel real to us on paper. For a story that is told in a first person narrative, Bella’s decisions and inner dialogue seem to repeat a loop of “Edward, Edward, Edward“. Bella loves Edward so deeply that she is fully prepared to give up her life and family—fake her own death essentially, in order to be with him.

In the film Eclipse there is a scene where Bella, who at this point is expecting to be bestowed eternal life by Edward, says her last goodbye to her mother (although her mother has no idea). While watching the scene I was surprised by the ease of it, It touched me only because I was thinking how difficult it would be for myself in that situation. The scene isn’t an error in translation from book to film, the treatment of Bella’s determination to be made vampire is almost glossed over with just a few—”oh, I’ll miss my parents” thrown in there. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, and usually when a similar choice comes about (which it so often does) the protagonist chooses against it, because it’s just too painful and wrong somehow, or they have their hand forced and live to regret it, but Stephenie Meyer gives the teenage girl inside of us that forbidden choice, and barely even takes note of the hardship that truly comes with it.

It’s lovely to live in a fantasy where you can give yourself over completely to another world, forgetting those you leave behind, or better yet, managing to have it all at once without consequence, but there is something about it that just rings false. Life is painful, and the decisions we make when we’re young can sometimes be so damaging that we spend the rest of our lives regretting them. There is so little real threat in the Twilight saga, the werewolves and the vampires warm up to each other almost too quickly (too bad Capulet and Montague didn’t have to battle an army of vampires) and it’s nice that they work things out, but it’s just too easy.

Feminism is all about choice, so I can’t call Bella an anti-feminist character, I may not agree with the choices she makes, but she (and Stephenie Meyer) have the right to make them, and that right should be protected rather than condemned. I still couldn’t feature Twilight in my weekly Beauty in the Movies post, because although though the films can generally pass the Bedchel test, I can’t get behind Bella as a role model, I’m a child of the Buffy generation, and I think there is more to being a woman than just choosing who to love, even if it can be fun to read about it.

I tried for a long time to justify Twilight as a valid piece of literature with a real message, just because I wanted to believe that a story that resonates so deeply with so many people must be more than just a happy accident. But here’s the thing, I really think that’s all it is. I think Stephenie Meyer stumbled on something, and though she is obviously talented in that she could  sit down and write four novels (all her haters, where are your bestselling novels, huh?) I don’t think the real message of Twilight is useful for anyone. As much as I’ve heard fans of the series try to justify the message as meaningful—the vampires and werewolves show tolerance for each other, or Bella finds acceptance in a world where she feels like an outsider, the message that really, undeniably jumps off the page, is that when you love someone you sacrifice everything, even if it changes who you are—just because you love them, no matter the consequence. We all love happy endings, but the stories that resonate deeply are the ones where something was gained and lost, or at least learned. I can’t say that Twilight gives you any of those things, but that doesn’t make it crap.

Twilight taps into a part of our collective unconscious, or at least mine and loads of teenage girls. It seems to resonate in some way, it’s deeply escapist and obviously romantic. It’s a love triangle, a battle of fire and ice, vampire vs. werewolf, chastity vs. sin, and of course Edward vs. Jacob. More than anything it’s a good story, but it’s not Romeo and Juliet, or Harry Potter, or Buffy, all those stories involve complex sacrifices, growth, pain that can’t be mended, and choices that are so hard it’s almost unbearable—and that’s what makes them transcend the realm of fantasy, what makes them human, and what makes us feel a part of them.

Oh my gosh I could go on about this forever, but I’m not sure if people are interested. So let me know if you are—hate Twilight so much you’re pissed I even brought it up? Let me know! Love Twilight so much you hate me for saying anything bad about it? Let me know too!

Also, why is it that the werewolf has a waxed chest and the vampire who is supposedly made of stone, has very visible chest fuzz? Thoughts? Anyone?


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The Trouble with Popstars

Let’s talk about popstars. I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, probably because they tend to saturate the radio, television, magazines, and internet, but also because they have a huge influence on style and culture, and both of those things have an obvious effect on the rest of us.

So what really makes someone a popstar? I think a pop artist creates danceable music, and has a certain persona they embody, they’re of course also marketable in some way, usually because they’re all sexy. The making of a popstar is a curious thing. Most of them start as something else and then transcend. Gwen Stefani started as a ska queen, Cyndi Lauper was a downtown rocker chick, and countless others have ascended to the throne of pop-stardom from complete obscurity, or from the Mickey Mouse Club.

Like I said, a big part of being a popstar is being sexy (I’m talking mainly lady popstars here), yes there are some who might not use it as much as others, but as a general rule, sex sells, especially in the record industry. I can’t get into the way that sexuality plays into pop and celebrity in general, but it must be noted that most of the women considered popstars have benefited from their sexual magnetism, is it exploitation? Well that really depends on how they feel about it. In the case of Britney Spears, I always thought there was some exploitation going on, but I can’t be sure. In the case of someone like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, I think they’re both completely aware of how they use their bodies and make those choices for themselves, or at least I hope so. Either way being a popstar does mean a fair amount of showing skin, gyrating, and sultry, pouty-lipped, flirting with your audience and everyone else too.

People are very protective of their popstars, we love to pit them against each other, Madonna vs. Cyndi, Britney vs. Christina, Gaga against just about everyone. Just like sports teams, we maintain a certain loyalty to them, but then we turn on them when they fail us. They’re more real to us than actors because they open themselves up to us on stage. They invite us in, they write about their lives in their songs, and we connect to them (if you were a teenage girl in the 90′s tell me you didn’t blast Gwen Stefani singing Don’t Speak at full volume at least once), after all when you sing you bare your soul right?

Popstars are overblown characters, they have to maintain their persona constantly. Actors, reality TV stars, socialites, most other celebrities are not asked to do this, but popstars are more to us. They play a bigger part in culture and we expect a lot from them. Think about how many actors just continue to play the same part over and over again, Jennifer Aniston comes to mind. Likewise for comedians, as we can see from SNL, people just love to watch the same joke over and over again. The same goes for the success of Will Ferrell, or Jack Black movies, people seem to love them, sure we get sick of them too, but it takes longer, and we never really tear them a part for it.

Take Lady Gaga right now, in October when I mentioned her name to people, I was getting blank stares, now everyone and their mother (by this I mean my mother) talk about her regularly. Yet, I think we’re already getting a little bored by her, partially because of over-saturation yes, but also because we’re ready for her to do something new. I was so excited for the Alejandro video to come out, and then when it did, I found myself disappointed. I guess because like her recent  Rolling Stone cover, it just seemed like we’d seen it already, it wasn’t fun anymore. After getting annoyed and yelling “Boo! Gaga give me something better!” loudly at my computer while eating toast in my PJs  one day, I started to wonder why I already wanted something new from a girl who hadn’t been in my iTunes rotation for more than a year. Then I felt bad, and then I started to wonder why we expect so much from these people? Maybe because we know they have production powerhouses behind them, or maybe we are turning into a society that needs instant gratification. We want something new, we want something both entertaining and mind-blowing, and we want it now. But we don’t know what it is and we expect someone else to figure it out for us, like now. I think we’re a little harder on someone like Gaga too because she takes credit for a lot of the creativity and process in her work, and when you claim creative control, you open yourself up to a whole bunch of criticism.

With someone like Britney Spears, we all knew someone else was writing her songs and putting words in her mouth and she was pretty much left out of all the decision-making. So maybe we were a little more sympathetic, but that still didn’t stop us from being fascinated when she had a nervous breakdown (a nervous breakdown is after all something new and different from anything she had done before). We still wanted more from her, and of course the only thing we love more than a fallen popstar is a comeback (take note Lindsay Lohan).

I don’t think we’re as harsh on male popstars, I also don’t think we have as many male pop stars. I certainly don’t think we scrutinize Justin Timberlake nearly as much as we do Katy Perry or Beyoncé. I’m not sure what this says about our culture, probably a whole hell of a lot more than I’m even touching on, but I think it’s interesting to note our relationships with these women. We love them, we are annoyed by them, we are fascinated by them, we hate them, we want them to succeed, we love to see them fail—it’s all just insanity! They are just women like the rest of us, they’re trying to succeed, they use their sex appeal to do so yes, but that’s a choice, it may be a choice that allows some to justify treating them as less-than-human, but people tend to do that in the internet-age regardless.

Speaking of which, Jezebel had an interesting post the other day about the backlash that successful stars (pop or otherwise) face after over-saturation. If you dare go in the comments section, you’ll see many make the argument that Gaga and others (particularly Megan Fox) are boring and replaceable and that is why it’s OK to lash out against them. To me, that seems like over-justification, do we really need to put energy into hating these performers, is it our duty? Won’t they fail on their own if they’re so boring and awful?  I guess I just can’t see a reason for putting so much venom out there, it makes me wonder what you get back from it. If we aren’t happy with what is out there, it seems a much better approach to support the music or artists we love (shout out to Joanna Newsom, La Roux, and Laura Veirs) that aren’t as successful, that’s got to be better karma.

My point is that in order for my perfect world where we all love each other and accept our bodies and ourselves to exist, we have to let go of all the judgment and the hatred. They’re just popstars, they’re supposed to be fun, they aren’t running for office. They’re role-models sure, but speaking of politicians, when did being held up as a role-model ever mean you actually conduct yourself in manner befitting of one? Maybe I’ve just been in the comments section of Jezebel a bit too much lately (it can be a scary place), but I got myself all worked up about it, and this has been therapeutic for me, so thanks! Lets all try to be polite, popstars or not, surely it can only aid in making us more beautiful people.

What do you guys think of popstars, do you sympathize with them? Do you guiltily read US weekly whenever you’re at the nail salon just because you have a sick fascination with their lives…oh wait, that’s just me, or maybe it’s you too. Maybe you could give a damn about any of them. Either way let me know!


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